Govt Urged To Keep Covering COVID-19 Treatments

Anutin Charnvirakul COVID-19 Vaccine Update

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul has been urged to reconsider the decision to exclude COVID-19 treatments from the list of conditions covered by the Universal Coverage for Emergency Patients (UCEP) scheme, as the number of new infections is still on the rise.

Deputy Public Health Minister Sathit Pitutecha said the time simply wasn’t right to make changes to the scheme, especially since the country had just reported 16,330 new cases and 25 deaths from COVID-19 on Saturday — the highest since 29th August last year.

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He said he will ask Mr Charnvirakul to delay the rule’s implementation to 1st April.

The government had earlier announced that starting on 1st March, COVID-19 treatments will no longer be covered by the UCEP, except for those who are in a critical condition.

At present, all costs associated with COVID-19 treatments are covered by the scheme, meaning patients can seek treatment at any hospital free of charge.

The announcement means from 1st March onwards, only patients who are suffering from a critical, secondary infection brought on by COVID-19 will be covered by the scheme.

As such, those who have tested positive for COVID-19 but do not require critical care will have to make use of other welfare schemes to cover the cost of their treatment — for example, the NHSO’s universal health coverage scheme or the Civil Servant Medical Benefit Scheme.

Separately, the Pheu Thai Party also urged the government to reconsider the move, saying it would complicate efforts to contain the outbreak.

The main opposition party’s spokeswoman, Theerarat Samretwanich, said the decision will ultimately restrict people’s access to treatment, as under the new rule, those who tested positive for COVID-19 won’t be able to seek treatment at any hospital they wish.

Instead, she said, they would have to seek treatment at the hospital where their health insurance schemes were registered.

Jadej Thammatacharee, secretary-general of the National Health Security Office (NHSO), which manages the universal health programme, said ultimately the power to make changes to UCEP rests with the Department of Health Service Support.

He said free and/or subsidised treatment for COVID-19 will remain available to the public, even if the disease has been removed from the list of conditions covered by the UCEP.

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